Religious leaders have gathered at Bristol City Hall to stand together in condemnation of the terrorist attack in Christchurch, New Zealand.
Representatives from Bristol’s faith communities joined Marvin Rees, Mayor of Bristol, in a roundtable discussion on the events and the response of the city’s communities.
Everyone at the meeting joined in unilaterally rejecting extremism in all its forms and made a collective stand against those who would use violence and terror to divide communities.
Marvin Rees, speaking at the gathering, said: “What has happened in New Zealand is a tragedy. It is a direct assault on our shared beliefs of freedom, democracy and community. The measured and reasonable response to all types of extremism is to reject it out of hand and to stand with communities in solidarity against this hate.
“We must be clear that the ideas, ethics and actions of extremist individuals and groups do not bring about positive change. I pledge my support to all Bristol communities and assure you that I stand with you in the face of those who seek to divide us.
“I want to reassure people that our city’s religious establishments are open and welcoming to anyone who is feeling any fear or concern following today’s events.”
Arif Khan, Chair of the Council of Bristol Mosques, said: “Many people cannot comprehend the terrible news that 49 people have been killed whilst peacefully praying in a place of worship. Any place of worship is a place of sanctuary and sanctity which deserve the highest of respect as these pillars in neighbourhoods for those who have faith and none.
“There will be many news articles through various channels and social media. Some will be responsible and some will be sensationalised but we stress the importance to give the least platform and not to circulate the videos of this heinous attack. To do so would be to disrespect those who have been killed and peddle the extreme right wing rhetoric to which these attackers belong.
“We have been assured by Avon and Somerset Police Constabulary there will be higher vigilance of policing in line with the UK response. Nothing will divide the unity of our great city and by remaining in solidarity; no doubt we will thwart those who seek to divide us.”
Peter Brill, Trustee of Salaam Shalom, said: “In October last year, a lone gunman walked into a Synagogue in Pittsburgh and massacred 11 people. At the time Bristol’s Jewish communities mourned this senseless loss of life. They were joined by the city’s Muslim and other faith communities. Just five months later we find ourselves standing once again alongside our Muslim friends and neighbours in saying again ‘not in our name’. All of Bristol’s Jewish community send thoughts, support and prayers to those that now mourn for their loved ones in New Zealand.”
Nicola Stanley, Canon Precentor Bristol Cathedral, said: “We pray three times every day for tolerance and understanding between people of all faiths and no faith and of course we have been praying all day for the people of New Zealand and especially for the Muslim communities there.”
Abdulkadir Ahmed, Chair of Bristol Somali Forum, said: “Our condolences and prayers are with the victims and their families who lost their loved ones. This is a terrorist attack and also a hatred towards people from a particular faith. Bigotry, Islamophobia and racism do not have a place in our society and we stand together to fight against this abhorrent crime.”
Rana Busharat Ali Khan President International Human Rights Movement, said: “This is a simple act of terrorism and we should take it as a terrorist act and not a religious act. No one man can represent his religion or his nation or his country.”